Archive for September, 2011

When Outdoors is Out of the Question

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

It’s getting to be that time of year again.

A few years back, I purchased a ProFitter 3D Trainer because it would allow me to work on building strength and balance along with my cardiovascular fitness. This is an ideal sport-specific workout that’s perfect for when the weather is too ugly to train outdoors.

Pro Fitter 3D photoFor skating, the slide board-like action reinforces the  side-directed push that’s key to stroke quality. This directly works the  muscles that deliver  efficient, powerful strides.

The side-to-side repetitions also build strength in my lower body for alpine skiing, my favorite winter sport. I can tailor the slide resistance by changing the configuration of four sets of bungee cords on the bottom side  to create more tension (to build muscular strength) or reduce the tension (which requires more balance).

Check out this video clip of me using the ProFitter 3D Trainer. (Requires Quicktime). In this clip I am in an upright stance with my weight centered while my feet float back and forth. This method strengthens my core muscles (great for skiing moguls!). It is also possible to move the entire body back and forth to focus more on lower body strength.

Thanks to its portability, I can easily store the ProFitter behind my office door when I’m not using it. When I’m ready for a workout, I set it up wherever the view out the window is prettiest. When an outdoors workout is possible, it’s great to put some stimulating music in my ears and get a quick half-hour workout on the deck overlooking my garden and the cow pasture out back.

Using this device is a little noisy and takes a bit of practice. And yes, at $599, the price is a bit steep. But for me, the opportunity to cross train specifically for my two favorite sports while building strength, balance and endurance—in the comfort of my own home—makes it totally worth the investment.

Breathing Lessons

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Do you need breathing lessons? This question might sound ridiculous, but if you want to skate long distances efficiently, you must be able to get all the oxygen your hard-working body needs.

Here is how to find out how you currently breathe: sit up straight, place your hands on your stomach below the belt line and take a very deep breath. Did your hands move in toward your spine? If yes, you have just filled only the top portion of your lungs. Your diaphragm stayed tight, blocking the path to a full intake of air. Inline skaters (and all humans)  need a rich intake of oxygen with every inhalation.

Because breathing habits are usually developed over a lifetime, re-learning proper breathing starts with awareness. Learning to watch and control your breathing offers other benefits, too. It takes your mind off worries, helps you feel more in control, and slows the hectic pace of both your mind and body, all very healthy side effects!

Meditating skater
Don’t try this at home, kids!

On the Mind-Body page of my Get Rolling Off-Skate Training section, I describe three breathing exercises for skaters to try:

A friend turned me on to  The Extraordinary Breath, a book by Donald and Lynne Rubbo. It is a great beginner’s guide for gaining all of the benefits from fully breathing. You can download and share this ebook freely with the authors’ blessing:
“We want to make this easy-to-learn, profound breathing system available to the entire world, and give people a time-proven way to be proactive in their own health and well-being, to make deep breathing and positive thoughts habitual and to allow the citizens of our world to live their lives with clarity of purpose, greater happiness and stronger connections to nature and to one another.”

Not everyone can skate (after all)

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Eighteen years ago as I was writing the early chapters of my book, Get Rolling, the Beginner’s Guide to Inline Skating, I had already forgotten that it took about 20 hours of practice before I was finally able to skate without feeling like a klutz. Once my tentative, awkward, uncoordinated days were behind me, all I could think of as I wrote my book was:

Wow! Anybody who can walk can skate! I need to tell the world about this!

And that is when I became a certified instructor and began offering skating lessons to demystify the sport for adults.

Skater with full padding, including ski poles and innert tube around waist

Safe skater?

Reality check

Despite my invariably encouraging words and practice tips to every one of my beginning students for nearly 20 years, I am now ready to admit that inline skating is decidedly not for everybody.

Ten-plus years ago, I was teaching fairly athletic people who came to me primarily for braking tips. But today’s typical beginners come to their first lesson with less balance, coordination and fitness. I am not sure why this is so, unless it’s due to broader cultural awareness and acceptance of the sport overall.

And then there is the subject of fitness. On my FAQ page I try to set very clear expectations for two types of beginners. See myanswers to:

I used to think that this expansion of the sport to a wider base of participants was a good thing, but now I have concerns. I am beginning to suspect that I have probably empowered more than a few of my students with just enough skill and confidence to go out and get injured through skating—the exact opposite of my goals as a certified instructor!

The blessed few

Over my 20 years of teaching, I have seen one or two successes among those who started from zero aptitude. I fondly remember one fairly fit, normal sized gal who continued to tremble and freeze with fear even after dozens of lessons. She finally achieved her dream of skating on a flat sidewalk (and became a close friend)—after three years and five trips to Camp Rollerblade, totaling over 100 total hours of instruction.

Skaters’ aids

Because I like to support inventors who are trying to make the sport safer for more participants, I have tested many skating aids. I have been disappointed to find that many of these hide or totally remove a key element of the joy of skating: skaters would be carrying a broom, gripping a pair of handbrakes attached to cords running up the legs, experiencing dragging wheels when tipped a certain way or in reverse. This is not the skating freedom that inspires people to dream of joining the sport!*

Recently I was testing yet another invention for skaters with special needs when I stopped to chat with a couple who’d observed me as I rolled by. The woman was my typical student’s age. She made this point and it hit home: “You know, there are a lot of other enjoyable outdoors activities a person can do with a lot less risk of falling. Why not choose one of those?”

Safer alternatives

For those who can’t bear to give up the dream of skating, I suggest sticking to the safety of indoors rinks where there are walls, carpets, benches to rest on and no automobiles.

* The one invention I continue to eagerly support is the 4Xs cuff-activated brake. I am still convinced by my testing that this system offers the safest and most effective stopping power available today. (Fingers crossed for entry-level models scheduled for release in spring of 2012!)

My Morning Skate on the Iron Horse

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

On a recent gorgeous summer Sunday morning, I decided to see how the northern section of my local favorite skating trail was faring. I hadn’t been there for awhile because I prefer to get my skate workouts on the southern section of the Iron Horse Trail where there are less intersections. The central section’s trees behind the high school tend to drop a lot of leaves and twigs on the trail. (I still have a scar on my knee from that stretch.) Also, loitering teens tend to block the trail right behind the school.

On this day, I decided to accomplish two goals with my skating: get a nice workout while researching updates for the Iron Horse Regional Trail, Central entry in

As usual, my endorphin high kicked in and gave me that blissful feeling of love for all humankind. It’s a good thing, because there were lots of humans of all kinds sharing the trail with me!

For the first time ever, I saw a lady walking her bird. She had fastened a cage to a baby stroller and was pushing that down the asphalt, acting like this was an everyday occurance.

At every intersection I came to a stop and looked both ways before crossing, especially important where shrubbery blocks the view. A pair of boys of about 10 or so in age decided to race me after one crossing, sprinting up the trail alongside me. I kicked into high gear and pulled away.

Nearly everybody was courteous and made way for oncoming traffic, even those  I approached silently from behind. People with dogs on leashes kept them in check as I passed. However, an oncoming pair of cyclists was paying less attention and I had to yell to prevent a head-on collision with one.

It was disappointing to note that the trail conditions on this stretch of the Iron Horse have deteriorated quite a bit since I last skated it, possibly due to budget cuts or the extra-wet winter we had in 2010/2011. Longitudinal cracks have opened up in many places, with gaps wide enough to grab and hold my wheels. Both ends of both bridges have raised lips that would trip any skater not paying attention well enough avoid them. There was so much tree debris on the shady section behind the school that I fear the park district has not been able to pay for sweeping.

On the return trip, I stopped to chat with an elderly gentleman wearing an official looking East Bay Regional Park hat and the label “Trail Safety Patrol” on the back of his shirt. We shared tips on the the near-impossible task of getting kids to wear their helmets properly (buckled and over their foreheads) as they zip by.

Next week I’ll be doing my normal workday morning skating workout on the sunny southern section Iron Horse Trail, dodging kids on bikes as they head to school. And I will be filled with love for all humankind once again!

Your brains are showing!

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

During my weekend skating jaunts on the local multi-use trail in Danville, it tickles me to see families enjoying the outdoors together—getting a little exercise on foot, bikes, scooters, or skates; walking the dog; and just generally sharing quality recreational time. What a great way for parents to share the fun and benefits of playing outdoors as a family! I always hope the kids are building memories that will guide their values as adults, and that they, too, will make it a point to participate often in the great outdoors with friends and family.

But there is one misguided family value I wish I could influence. When I see bare-headed parents bicycling with their helmeted kids, I have to wonder, what are the children learning from this? That helmets are kid stuff? There should be no double standard here. The adult head is made of stuff that is much more brittle than a child’s. When an adult skull hits the pavement it’s going to be at a higher speed due to height and with more weight behind the impact. The whole family needs the protection of properly fitted helmets when participating in wheeled sports!

And this brings me to my second issue. If the child’s helmet is tipped back to expose a large expanse of forehead, there is a significant risk that it won’t be protecting that part of his or her brain in a forward crash.

In the rare opportunities where I get a chance to interact with the family, I jokingly say to the child, “Uh oh, your brains are showing!” and then advise the parent that by shortening the front straps, the helmet will stay forward on the child’s head—assuming it isn’t too large to stay put in the first place.

Spread the word: there is a right way and a wrong way to wear helmets. See my August 2009 Orbit article, Proper Helmet Fit, for more details and a diagram showing how to adjust a helmet so it offers the safety and performance for which it was designed.

And if you skate bareheaded yourself? Remember, all it takes is just one slip!

My favorite inline online pages

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

bulletred picture I use and recommend Rollerblade brand in-line skates. You should too! I have never had a bad skate from K2.

bulletred picture A video is worth a thousand words: see Skate Skill Videos produced by Mark Davies at

bulletred picture Inline Planet – Timely articles and interviews with skate luminaries, and home of the best social network for skaters, the Inline Planet Skater Network.

bulletred picture Visit the Inline Skating Resource Center to learn all about the who, what, when where and how of inline skating today.

bulletred picture Find just about every skate-related product on the planet at, folks I know and trust.

bulletred picture Want to try before you buy? Inline Warehouse has a very wide selection of inline skates and the best return shipping policy around (Tip: stay indoors on clean floors or carpet)

bulletred picture Zephyr Adventures offers international skate, trekking, biking, wine and beer tasting, and self-guided tours plus learn-to-skate mini-vacations at Camp Rollerblade.

bulletred picture Kathy Fry’s is full of amazingly organized links to a wealth of skate-related info and images.

See the Get Rolling web site Skate Links page for the entire list of links.

Fuel for Serious Skaters

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

In the past, I have not shared my written opinions about eating for performance because my dietary guidlines are tailored to my own body and my current knowledge about sports nutrition. But because I was asked and answered this question recently for Paul Korankye, (remember the Hidden Stars Skaters Dream Club in Ghana?), I decided to risk a possible blog backlash by posting a simplified version of my personal guidelines here.

Healthy lunch

Healthy eating, simple and fresh

Dan and I both think of our daily food intake as fuel for our athletic lifestyles, even when we are simply enjoying a weekend of relaxing at home. For many years we were strict followers of the Zone Diet, but these days we cheat a little more than we used to, though we are still benefitting from it: we have tons of energy while exercising and all day every day, we don’t need more than seven hours of sleep a night, and we both stay lean and fit year after year.

The Zone Diet is a technical approach to eating that requires us to understand how much fat, protein and carbohydrates we are consuming with each meal. Since Dan and I both have technology jobs, the science behind this diet is more fascinating than it is daunting. The Zone Diet can also be a calorie restriction (life extending) diet, if you want to use it that way, which I do.

The other name for this diet is the 40-30-30 diet because each meal needs to be a balance of about 40% carbohydrates (not starchy), 30% fats (monounsaturated, not hydrogenated), and 30% lean protein. Preparing food this way made me a little crazy for a few years because I had to learn to weigh my food and always read the nutrition labels before I could cook or eat anything. My Zone Buddy spreadsheet (now an iPhone app) got me through this period.

Fully understanding and following the Zone Diet is too difficult for most people (especially for a team of growing boys and young men in Ghana). However, I was able to at least give Paul a few manageble guidelines for his speedskating club.

Zone Diet Tips and Tricks

  • Eat a little protein with every meal and snack
  • Carbs are everywhere, so we often carry portable protien to supplement it: protein bars, string cheese sticks, soy nuts
  • Eat fresh, not fast foods (focus on fruit, vegetables)
  • Eat healthy fats: nuts, avocados, olive oil
  • Avoid starchy foods and snacks like french fries, potato chips
  • Eat a small breakfast, medium lunch, and medium dinner every day
  • Eat a small afternoon snack to sustain energy until dinner time
  • Before a race, stay away from alcohol and sweets and eat pasta for dinner the night before
  • Carry and use energy supplements for 2-hour or longer events or training
  • Drink lots of water (not soda) all of the time, especially during strenuous activity

Typical breakfasts

  • Two  Balance Bars (or Zone Perfect bars) for Dan
  • 1/2 protein bar plus two Zone oatmeal cookies for Liz
  • Oatmeal with low fat cottage or ricotta cheese on the side (or a zero carb protein drink)

Typical lunch

  • One 3-0z deli meat sandwich plus two fruits for Dan
  • One 3-oz chicken spinach salad plus one fruit for Liz

Typical snacks

  • Smoked salmon (or cheese), radishes, cherry tomatoes, olives, and 2 crackers
  • Balance bar
  • Jerkey, almonds and one beer or glass of wine
  • Soy nuts (or jerkey) plus fruit
  • 1-oz string cheese and 2 crackers

Typical dinner

  • One 4-oz erving of lean protein (or sized to the palm of your hand)
  • Two large servings of a leafy or high fiber vegetable (or one veggie serving plus a fruit or sweet potato)

Follow the links above or surf the Internet for other peoples’ advice.